The Cricket Express Whanganui Festival of Cricket takes on a more serious tone this week as the National Under-15 Girls Tournament launches at Victoria Park on Tuesday.

Last week the festival hosted the Central Districts Under-18 Girls Development Tournament specifically focused on game and skill development rather than winning, losing or drawing. For the record Hawkes Bay beat Nelson in the final with only bragging rights on offer.

Tuesday heralds the start of the Under-15 championship with representatives from all six New Zealand cricketing provinces competing.

Each side will be mentored by past or present first class players. CD for instance has Whanganui's very own White Fern Jess Watkin as its mentor, while Christchurch has the former national women's coach Katrina Keenan polish.


Keenan was heavily involved in early preparations for the Christchurch girls' bid for glory, but unfortunately has left the fine-tuning to manager Nigel Stagg and several stand-in cocahes.

"We will be doing Katrina's bidding, but she has put in all the early work," Stagg said.

Keenan made her debut in the 1995 centenary season and has played 43 One Day Internationals and taken 55 wickets.

She has played five tests and taken 15 wickets with her best performance being 6/73 against England at Worcester in the 1996 tour of England and Ireland. Her best ODI bowling and batting were both at the 1997 World Cup in India. Keenan is New Zealand Cricket's National Women's Development Officer.

Teams from Northern Districts, defending champions Auckland, Central Districts,
Wellington, Christchurch (as opposed to Canterbury) and Otago will do battle on the Tasman Tanning pitches at Victoria Park with one game scheduled for this afternoon and two matches Wednesday and Thursday before finals day on Friday.

Cricket Whanganui general manager Dilan Raj said while the Under-15 tournament was competitive with each side striving to win, the main aim was still to upskill the girls and groom them to advance through the grades, ultimately to the highest level, the White Ferns.

A number of past and present White Ferns have come through the Whanganui Festival of Cricket, including Watkin, fellow CD Hinds seamer Hannah Rowe and Wellingtonian Amelia Kerr.

"Having such high profile coaches and mentors is a huge benefit for the girls, they will learn so much during four days when they will be totally immersed in the game," Raj said.

Communications company 2degrees has also come on board to provide wifi and allow live scoring to be watched by family, friends and supporters unable to make it to Victoria Park.